Meet Amy Campion. In this profile, Amy shares her experience creating a space for NW native plants and the insects they support.
Where do I garden?
I gardened for 17 years in the Cincinnati area, and I’ve gardened for the past 10 years in Portland. My current garden is in Northeast Portland on a sunny, flat, 7,000-square-foot lot.
How would I describe my garden?
In Cincinnati, I mostly planted things I thought were pretty or interesting. I didn’t care where they originated from. In Portland, I continued that practice. You could say I had a collector’s garden. Then, a couple years ago, I started tearing out many of my exotic plants and replacing them with natives, near-natives, or at least well-behaved exotic pollinator plants. I also put in a small pond. Now my garden is more of cottage garden with an emphasis on wildlife-friendly plants. The diversity of insects and other creatures my garden currently supports is incredible! I find it fascinating to walk the garden every chance I get and see what I can discover there.
The garden that most influenced me?
Lately, I get a lot of ideas from Wildlife Botanical Gardens in Brush Prairie, Washington, especially for pollinator plants. There’s a ton of both native and non-native plants there, and you can see exactly which ones are popular with bees and other insects. You can find a lot of pollinator plant lists online, but many of them are inaccurate, so it’s nice to see for yourself which plants really work in our area.
Who has influenced my approach to gardening the most?
Doug Tallamy. His book, Nature’s Best Hope, completely changed my outlook on gardening by convincing me of the importance of native plants and the insects that rely on them. I’m also a big fan of Benjamin Vogt. He expresses many of these same ideas in a passionate and poetic way. His book, A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future is a masterpiece.
A movement/new direction in gardening/garden design that I am excited about
For many years, I paid lip service to gardening with native plants because I knew they were trendy, but I didn’t think they were truly important in gardens. Now, as I’m changing my tune, I’m finding a lot of other people are changing their minds as well. I think we’re on the cusp of a sea change in the way people in general approach gardening. I think we’re moving away from gardens that are merely pretty and moving towards gardens that can do some real good for the planet, and I find that very exciting.
What Northwest native plant is undervalued and should be grown more often?
I’ll give you two. In our area, willow is the number-one supporter of caterpillars, which are absolutely essential to the health of baby birds and many other animals. I love my Scouler willow (Salix scouleriana), because it’s an upland willow—it isn’t a water hog like other willows. And, I’ve already seen butterflies laying eggs on it. For pollinator plants, Phacelia heterophylla is near the top of the list for me. The flowers are small and dingy-white, but they attract a huge diversity and abundance of native bees.
Why is a healthy insect population important to garden health?
A healthy insect population in the garden can improve pollination and help keep pest outbreaks in check naturally, but that’s just a small part of the bigger picture. Healthy insect populations aren’t merely important for our tomatoes and strawberries—they’re important for the health of the planet! After plants, insects are the basis of food webs around the world, they’re required for pollination of most plants, and they help break down vast amounts of wastes and other organic matter so that nutrients can eventually be released and used again. We simply couldn’t LIVE without insects.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your inspiring story!
Amy Campion has been gardening for 27 years, first in the Cincinnati area, where she worked at a wholesale nursery for 16 years, and now in Northeast Portland, where she’s lived for 10 years. She is the co-author of Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: The Complete Homeowner’s Guide, along with Paul Bonine. This year, Amy entered the OSU Master Melittologist Apprentice program. She is passionate about gardening for insects and other wildlife and is excited to show you how native plants can help make your own garden more biodiverse.
Photo Credit: Amy Campion
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